#4 A comprehensive marketing strategy for your small business
Updated: Feb 20, 2019
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This is a continuation of the answer to Martine's question. To see the first in this series please click here https://bit.ly/2BGY4WI.
I was pleased to learn from your latest response to Eugene that you are going to start with what you usually refer to as a ‘comprehensive marketing strategy’. My husband and I own a small hotel in The Netherlands and because of the location, a lot of tourists come to this area especially in Spring and Summer. Your blogs opened my eyes to the fact that the person we engaged for online marketing services knows how to build websites, set up social media accounts etc. but she does not speak the language that you speak in your blogs about a comprehensive strategy. I have two questions. 1. Will you please start with what a comprehensive marketing strategy is. 2. If we engage your services on setting up a marketing strategy will you help us with the implementation? We are not old (40’s) but we are far from tech savvy. We don't mind coming to you. Thank you. Martine (Not her real name).
As I promised last week, this is the last in the foundation phase. Thereafter we get into the nuts and bolts of a marketing strategy.
Thus far we have covered:
1. What do I want to achieve?
2. Who is my customer?
3. Who is my competition?
That takes us to this week’s topic:
Managing perceptions and positioning what you offer
How often do we hear, "That’s only a perception - this is the reality"? This shows a total misunderstanding of what perception means and as a business owner you cannot afford to make such a mistake.
The best way to explain perception is to introduce a third word ‘facts’ We often mistake reality for fact / truth. Facts are independent of our interpretation e.g. The sun rises from the east whether you and I like it or not. 30°C = 68°F whether you and I agree or not.
30°C = 68°F is a fact but there is another equally valid fact - no one experiences 30°C or 68°F. We experience our own reality which may be too hot, hot, warm, cold, too cold, comfortable, uncomfortable, acceptable, unacceptable etc and we do not experience degrees. This means, unless you are Mr Trump, you cannot have your own facts but you have your won reality. I can hear you thinking, ‘What have people’s perceptions got to do with my business or with marketing?’ The short answer is, ‘Everything’.
How prospects and customers perceive your business, your products/services and your service is all that matters. You can shout all the facts, even the stats, from the rooftops but no one cares. You can argue that reality is subjective but no one cares. An important aspect of your day job is to influence and manage perceptions.
When it comes to marketing it is not just about your direct message. It’s about everything. How prospects and customers perceive your business and your products is everything. That is what branding is all about. Why are customers willing to pay more for a pair of jeans just because of the Levi’s badge? Why are people willing to be walking billboards for brands? Brands give a promise or even promises. The first promise that is communicated by the Levi’s badge is the promise of quality. You buy a pair of their jeans confident that they not disintegrate in the washing machine.
The second promise communicated by the badge is the promise of status. Thus people buy these expensive jeans for one or both of these promises. If you buy branded clothes, branded shoes, branded handbags and other conspicuous consumption stuff like cars for the second promise you know that these items will help you to convince the world that you have money no matter what your bank statement reflects. No matter what your reason is for buying branded items, you will only continue to do so if the brand keeps the promise. A retailer who sells good quality non-branded jeans will find it difficult to charge the Levi’s price because prospects will perceive that price as too high. No matter how much the retailer tries to convince us that the quality is the same, we will not listen. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the power of perception.
Does this mean you cannot operate in the same market as big brands? No, you can, but you cannot compete on the strengths of brands. You should thus position yourself differently according to your competitive edge. No matter how high your marketing budget is, you will not build a strong brand if your brand does not keep your promise.
Rule 1: Do not make promises you know you cannot keep.
Rule 2: Do not make promises you know you cannot keep.
Rule 3: Do not make promises you know you cannot keep.
This does not only apply to promises you make verbally or in writing but also applies to how you position yourself and your business. I position myself as speaker who adds value and has integrity. I cannot afford to drop the ball at any point because my competitive edge will be gone. Firstly, this is how I demonstrate integrity. Often speaker agencies introduce me to clients and sometimes when a client invites me back they try to cut the agent out of the deal. This is what I say to the client: ‘Integrity Authenticity excellence’ is not just a payoff line of my companies, Real Solutions Training cc in SA and Real Solutions Training Netherlands. It is a statement of my non-negotiable values. I also ask them if they want someone who has no integrity to come and train their staff or speak to them or coach them.
If I do deals like that with clients and I am willing to be disloyal to agents how will clients know that they can trust me? I promise clients tailor-made solutions and to keep that promise I customise every talk, every workshop, every storytelling according to a client's desired outcomes. That is far more hard work that repeating the same memorised talk every time but if I present memorised talks I will not differentiate myself. That hard work is a recipe for surviving two full decades in this industry and even surviving a global recession. The moral of the story is, only make promises you know you can keep.
You should decide upfront what you stand for
I will use Woolworths (an upmarket store in countries like SA) as an example of positioning. They decided upfront that they sell ‘quality’ and not just clothing and food. I have repeated this story over the years because it illustrates this point so well. Many years ago, in the 90's, I went to Woolworths with one purpose - to buy lettuce. The fresh produce shelves were empty so I went to the next Woolworths store. When I found empty shelves at the following store got curious. I went closer to and saw a notice that said that they apologized for not having any fresh produce on stock and gave a reason. As a result of frost that week their suppliers could not supply produce met their standards full stop.
They obviously did not have to scratch their heads to decide on how to react to the frost. They determined their standards upfront. A friend, Suzanne Burgess and I, were talking about values and she mentioned someone who called her because she had a dilemma. She offered her training program to a client who suggested a 10% kickback. That is when she called Suzanne to ask for advice. I said to Suzanne 'What dilemma?' to which Suzanne responded that was exactly what I asked her, 'What dilemma.' That is the reason Suzanne is my friend. It is important to decide upfront. 1. What your values are and 2. What value you add.
After not getting any lettuce from Woolworths, did I go to their competitors who have lower standards? No way! I went home with no lettuce, very satisfied that I buy food from a store that decided upfront, before the frost happened that they sell quality. I went on paying the high Woolworths prices because I do not compromise on what I eat.
How can I afford high Woolworths prices when I am in the beloved country and high prices at a good health store called Edelweiss when I am here? In order to afford healthy food, I have never stepped inside a store that sells branded clothing. This is also a good example of what I touched on last week - unlimited wants and limited means. Unless you are Bill Gates or his mates, it’s either you compromise on what you eat or you compromise on what you are seen wearing. I believe that it is important to make such choices upfront as a consumer because otherwise advertisers will make them for you.
As in personal relationships, trust is everything in business. Branding is not only about price. It is mainly about trust.
When we talk about brands we refer to high ticket items that have achieved that status because of their high marketing budgets. That creates the impression that good branding is out of the reach of small businesses. The good news is that you do not to spend a fortune to gain trust. The opposite is also true. You can build a big brand like Enron or VW or FIFA with a huge marketing budget and lose all the goodwill by breaking trust.
Those who consume fast foods easily trust certain franchises than a corner café that they have never heard of. However, if the corner café has been in your neighbourhood for some time, someone you trust recommends it, you try it, get a great product and great service, try it again get the same positive result, try it again, get the same positive result, the corner café has gained your trust without spending a cent on marketing. Not only have they gained one customer but they have also gained the world’s best salesperson – a satisfied customer. What makes word of mouth more credible than any other advertising is the trust factor. That is why I agree with Bosch, you can afford to lose money but you cannot afford to lose trust.
I used to have a problem defining integrity until I found the simplest but most accurate definition and I have adopted it ever since. Doing what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, the way you said you would do it. As a business you should only make promises you can keep but because we do not live in a perfect world, things will now and then go wrong. That is a golden opportunity to win trust. Simply be honest and apologize before your customers demand an apology.
An excellent example of trust and authenticity
Susan Masusu Sibiya from Pretoria is one of my Facebook and real life contacts. Last year she posted on Facebook that she got amazing service from an optometrist in Polokwane. I got curious because I know she lives in Pretoria and wondered why anyone travel 300 kilometers to go to an optometrist. It all made sense when I read what she had to say about Dr Moithumi Monkoe. After checking her out on http://picdeer.com/mashianethumi the 300km trip made sense.
What blew me away was the fact that when I saw the posts of this young woman who gives advice on healthy eating and healthy living one word that is very important to me came to mind - autheticity. Did she attract a client from Pretoria by spending a fortune on advertising? No, she offered great service and differentiated herself from most allopathic medicine practitioners by giving good advice on nutrition and leading by example. Of course she did that over and above being excellent at being an optometrist. There are obviously other excellent optometrists between Pretoria and Polokwane but how often do you hear of one who offers such a comprehensive service?
To successfully influence the perceptions of prospects and clients, start by asking yourself what you would like to be known for. When a client hears or sees your business or your product or your services what should he/she think, feel and do. The bottom-line is that you want them to do something for instance buy or sign up for your newsletter or Future Readiness service or whatever action you desire. At the end of the day, what they choose to do is determined by how they perceive what you have to offer. What did Masusu do when she heard of the optometrist with a difference? She invested in a 300km trip. How can you achieve that? You do not have to be an optometrist to follow Moithumi’s example of 1. Adding real value and 2. Being authentic. Does it sound like I have become a fan of this young lady? You are right. I will be your fan too and trust you if you add real value and are authentic.
Trust takes us to the next step. According to the emails I have received in the past few weeks, a step many of you have been waiting for: We are going to start with the nuts and bolts – the marketing tactics that will be underpinned by the foundation we have laid thus far.
The next step shows you how to move prospects from ‘I have never heard of you’ to ‘I am willing to take out my credit card and order your products/services because I trust you enough’. Want to achieve that? Work on your foundation because everything that follows from now on will only work if your foundation is rock solid.
Till next week
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Makheni Zonneveld has extensive experience in helping organisations, teams, individuals and entrepreneurs with real transformation. She employs these communications tools: Online and face2face coaching, speaking, training, storytelling and writing.
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